Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Camera Loves You

Maybe it's just me, but the day after a 10-hour party, an early evening is in order.

That it was also bittersweet, musical and full of friends was icing on the cake.

After a solo dinner at 821 Cafe eating black beans nachos and listening to thrash, I landed at Balliceaux in time to nab a front row seat for the screening of the new documentary, "Goodbye Garbers."

My expectation was that I'd see lots of familiar faces, which I did, including more than a few who also showed up in the film, making for lively conversations about punk glasses, post-punk, the seedy Safeway on Grace Street and the value of cover bands in the overall musical scheme of things.

Just promise me there'll never be a Dexy's Midnight Runners cover band, please.

And, oh, did we digress. What is up with millennials who, when asked what music they're listening to currently, always seem to respond in the distant past (shoegaze? Pink Floyd? Stones? what the hell?) instead of with bands who are their contemporaries?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Introducing the documentary was musician and first-time filmmaker Allison Apperson, who'd backed into the project when musician friend Kelly Queener suggested they make a video about the closing of the Garbers building in the Bottom, the premiere practice space for scores of local bands over several decades.

Allison was the logical choice since she not only had editing experience, but had even named her band after the renowned practice space. Only problem was, Kelly had said "video" and Allison heard "documentary" and the latter was what we were about to see.

For me, what was cool about the film was seeing footage of bands playing in the practice spaces subdivided into the 65,000 square foot Garbers Garage Door Company building. Kelly had begun as a painter there and only later picked up a guitar as an alternate means of creative self-expression.

A woman named Colleen actually lived there, making art and expressing gratitude to owner Carl Otto for allowing her residency (as well as props to anyone born in 1957 like she was).

Carl appeared onscreen several times, explaining how he'd inherited the space from his father-in-law and saw no reason not to rent out the unused parts of the building to musicians, calling it "the best security system" to have people coming and going from the building night and day.

Because of course bands are not going to practice much during the staid 9-5 worker bee time frame.

While I knew that Garber's was a practice space, before tonight, I'd had no idea of just how many bands had made music there.

The first had been Fat Elvis starting in 1986 - the year I came to Richmond - plus a long-time residency by salsa kings Bio Ritmo and lots more, including White Laces, Manzara, the Ar-Kaics, Diamond Center, Hot Dolphin and Snowy Owls.

All bands I'd seen more than once. Even the documentary's musical talking heads were people I knew. Several said the same thing, that you could hear the evolution of other bands' albums there. That musicians fed off the energy of each other. How terrific the sound was in the building.

Best of all, Carl referred to his young tenants as making an enjoyable noise, at least right up until the end of June when he closed the building in anticipation of selling it. To be fair, the man is going on 80.

Everyone I talked to afterwards was gobsmacked at what a fabulous job Allison had done on the film, which in no way came across as a first effort. Clearly, the Garbers building attracted people of multiple talents.

Even better, her sense of humor resulted in a caption labeling guitarist, DJ and all-around music geek Paul Ivey as "angry musician," a joke he didn't even notice during tonight's screening, while some of us howled.

Perhaps his new Brian Wilson tour t-shirt had him in a blissfully zen state where he didn't notice such silliness.

After the screening, Kelly's band, Peace Beast, took the stage to deliver the kind of live music that used to percolate at the Garbers building. Their brand of dreamy psych pop with two female vocalists was the ideal way to feel the magic of the Garbers scene that is no more.

From here on out, it'll just be the stuff of legend, although the documentary probably ought to be required viewing for up and coming young Richmond musicians looking for inspiration.

Even the so-called angry ones.

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